The roots of R4U go back to 2011 and the formation of a number of independent and unconnected residents’ groups in Uttlesford. Over the following 2 years a number of the residents groups met and agreed how they could best work together to represent communities across the district. These groups connected under the clouds of a failing district Local Plan where decisions on new housing were being made for non-transparent reasons rather than following the evidence as to the best locations – and almost nothing was proposed in the way of new infrastructure to support new housing, such as roads and schools. The groups were unhappy with this situation because public opinion, housing need and evidence were being ignored.
2013: Residents Coalition Pressure Group
In 2013 the residents groups formed a coalition under the banner of Uttlesford United Residents. The coalition included residents groups and parish council representatives from Elsenham, Henham, Newport, Saffron Walden, Stansted Mountfitchet, and Takeley.
Unsatisfied that the leadership at Uttlesford District Council still refused to follow an evidence-based process, in the Autumn of 2014 a number of those residents groups formed a political party, Residents for Uttlesford (R4U). R4U had the intent to carry forward the aims of the coalition by changing the system from the inside, whilst the remaining residents’ groups continued to apply pressure from the outside.
Inspiration for the party was taken from other successful local independent parties in the UK, including the Loughton Residents Association elsewhere in Essex, Independents for Frome with their Flatpack Democracy model, and Residents Associations of Epsom and Ewell. The latter being the UK’s only Residents Association to lead a district authority.
The residents’ coalition and R4U continued to apply pressure on what they considered was a flawed Local Plan by Uttlesford District Council. They were eventually found to be correct when the Conservatives’ Local Plan was rejected by the Planning Inspectorate in December 2014.
2015: Election Success
For the 2015 local elections, R4U produced the first full set of local policies that had ever been produced by a political party for Uttlesford. These encompassed the goals of the residents’ coalition together with other well-rounded policies that covered all the major topics, including the economy, schools, roads, environment, health and community.
R4U achieved remarkable electoral success for a new party. After the May 2015 election, R4U had councillors at all levels of local government, county, district, town and parish, across the district from Dunmow to Saffron Walden. It was the second party at Uttlesford District Council, and led Saffron Walden Town Council.
2015 – 2019: Growth and Maturity
Following in from the 2015 local elections, R4U continued to champion residents’ causes, support residents’ groups, and broaden its policy and support base.
At Saffron Walden Town Council it fixed a £1m financial hole left by previous administrations and repaired crumbling community assets, and invested in new community sports, play and recreation facilities. At Great Dunmow it worked to create a more vibrant town centre economy. In a number of communities across the district, it’s councillors have been leading and delivering Neighbourhood Plans.
On Uttlesford District Council, where it had become the second party, it continued to push the Conservative leadership to listen to residents and follow evidence, particularly on its failing Local Plan.
In 2017 R4U contested a by-election in the Elsenham and Henham ward where it captured 60% of the vote and gained 2 additional seats at the district council.
2019: Gain Control of Uttlesford District Council
In the May 2019 local elections R4U gained control of the local planning authority, Uttlesford District Council. It inflicted the greatest Conservative loss of seats (-83%) at any UK district council where they held a majority. The party gained a larger majority at Saffron Walden Town Council and increased seats as the opposition at Great Dunmow Town Council.
At UDC the party inherited a council with a number of longstanding issues, including an underperforming planning department, 2 failed Local Plans stretching over 13 years, and a £5 million financial hole. The authority wasn’t working well for residents. Over the 4 year term the party started picking-off and tackling the issues. The party brought in the Local Government Association (LGA) to provide an independent assessment and advice to guide an improvement plan at the authority. The senior officer leadership team was refreshed. Service performance was improved, and a stable and solid financial position restored.
The financial turnaround was supported by an R4U-led diversified commercial property investment programme, that generated more than £16m in new income over the council term. This new income supported core services and many discretionary programmes, including broad-based net-zero initiatives.
The party anticipated that the improvement programme at UDC would take more than one term, but the authority was now on a stable footing and back investing in skills, staff and council services.
2023: Second Term of Delivering the Best Local Results
R4U solidified its position at UDC in the May 2023 local elections, where it was elected to a second term of majority leadership at the authority. In 2019 R4U captured a mood for change, and residents took a chance on change at UDC. The 2023 prove that R4U are a tried, tested and known quantity that delivers better local results, because residents knew exactly what they were voting for.
At Saffron Walden Town Council the party won a clean sweep of all the ward seats for the first time.
A Future Built Around Residents
R4U continues to champion residents’ causes, make their voices heard, and is working to deliver better, more transparent local councils. See what we are working to deliver for residents by reading our policies.